Category: Insight

Why do I need a technical feasibility study for my solar panels?

Site survey documents for technical feasibility study

What is a technical feasibility study?

Installing solar panels isn’t a complicated process: especially if you have over 15 years’ experience (like us). However, there’s more to it than just sticking some solar panels to a roof. Especially when you consider large scale commercial solar PV and solar carports.

In order for our installations to be as safe and effective as possible, we complete thorough technical feasibility studies before we start installing. While this does lengthen the lead time for a project, we always factor in these tests before agreeing to any timescales. We think that being upfront about this process helps us to deliver on time and to budget.

 

What’s included in a technical feasibility study for solar?

Technical feasibility studies vary, depending on the scope of your installation. The explanations below describe some of the common tests conducted in a feasibility study. Not all solar installations will require every single test listed below: this is just an indicative guide.

Our projects vary because each of them is bespoke. The exact feasibility studies required will depend on the specifics of the site. More complex projects may require further tests. Your project manager will advise on the specifics of your installation.

When preparing a financial estimate for a customer, we outline the cost of the feasibility studies separately to financially protect customers. We do not ask customers to pay a deposit based on a proportion of the total cost. Sometimes, installation plans change following the results of the feasibility study, so this ensures the customer never ends up out of pocket.

 

G99: Permit to connect to the local distribution network

Almost all commercial solar PV arrays will require a G99 Permit. This provides permission for a solar installation to connect to the grid.

We manage the G99 permit application to the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) on behalf of the client. This includes preparing the application form and associated documentation, as well as liaising with the DNO.

 

Technical site surveys

The number and complexity of the on-site surveys required will depend on location, the complexity of the site and install.  For example, a solar carport will require more in-depth surveys than a roof-top installation. However, every install will require some form of on-site technical site survey.

Surveys may include:

  • Topographical survey: Highlights any difference between the true levels and gradients of the land at the project site, and those presupposed in preliminary designs. A good topographical survey ensures durable construction.
  • Utilities survey: Allows underground utility locations to be supplied as a CAD drawing referencing a digital topographical survey to be used in the detailed design where piling is required.
  • Pull-out tests: Assesses whether the existing substrate can accommodate the wind loading associated with the solar carport.
    Structural survey and reporting: Ensure the existing roof can accommodate the additional loading of the solar panels and ballast.

Planning

Planning permission is required for ground-mounted arrays, solar carports and if your planned install is located within the curtilage of a listed building.  RenEnergy has an in-house expertise to manage the planning process on behalf of our clients with 100% success rate on all our applications.

 

Detailed design

The findings of the technical site surveys, will inform the detailed design of your proposed installation, including:

  • System sizing in terms of generating capacity, physical size, location and orientation of major components.
  • Detailed specification of major components allowing an accurate capital cost for the systems to be calculated, including yield and ROI (Return on Investment) analysis.

 

Technical feasibility studies: part of the package

RenEnergy prides itself on the quality and performance of our installs.  A comprehensive technical feasibility study ensures that this is the case.

To ensure our projects are as smooth as possible, we work with an in-house team of technical consultants to arrange any technical feasibility studies as required. After conducting a thorough assessment of your business, our consultants will present you with the best option for your energy needs.

Get in touch to find out more about technical consultancy and commercial solar PV from RenEnergy.

Why should I get my solar PV system serviced and cleaned?

photo of solar panel service and cleaning in East Anglia

Does my solar PV system need a service?

Solar panels are a hardy and long-lasting product. They need to be, as they’re constantly exposed to the elements. Once installed, most solar panels will generate indefinitely, with little to no input from the customer. That’s why solar is such a safe investment.

However, like all investments, solar performs best when it is carefully managed and maintained. A solar array that’s generating at its maximum capacity saves customers the most money and provides the best return on investment.

Keep reading for more reasons why your solar panels could benefit from an operations and maintenance service.

 

Solar panel servicing protects your stable investment

No business exists in a vacuum. World events can create a big impact on a company: from disrupted supply chains to market instability. Something could happen tomorrow that throws your business completely off-kilter.

But no matter what’s going on in the world, the sun will keep shining. Global weather patterns may be shifting due to climate change, but the UK still receives a similar amount of sunshine every year. If your business has solar panels, that equates to a predictable return on investment annually.

 

You could be missing FiT payments

If your solar array was installed under the Feed-In Tariff (FiT) scheme, you may be eligible to receive monthly payments for any unused electricity you sell back to the grid.

But, if your solar is not performing as it should, you could be missing out on FiT payments. Less energy generated means less spare energy exported back to the grid. FiT payments can provide an additional revenue stream for businesses, without any additional effort or overheads. This is a valuable opportunity for companies to improve their bottom line, and increase profitability.

 

A solar PV service ensures your system is working

We speak to a lot of business owners who judge whether their solar is working from their bank statements. As long as they’re receiving their FiT payments, they assume it’s performing as it should. And so it might be. But, the only way to know for sure is through a remote monitoring system.

As a best practice, we routinely install remote monitoring systems with all our solar arrays. However, older arrays or systems not installed by us may not have this.

Just because you’re receiving a FiT payment doesn’t mean your system is performing at its peak. You could be receiving just a fraction of the payment you’d be entitled to, was your system generating correctly.

Remote monitoring provides a full picture of energy generated, as well as an important indicator of any faults in the system. Our operations and maintenance team can check this from the office, and dispatch an engineer to carry out repairs if needed.

 

Some PV arrays need more cleaning than others

Solar panels generate electricity when sunlight hits a wafer of silicon cells contained within it. If the surface of the panel is very dirty, light cannot reach the silicon and the panel cannot generate electricity.

Since the UK receives plenty of rainfall, most solar panels are regularly rinsed and this is enough to keep them performing efficiently. However, customers who work in particularly dirty industries may need a deeper clean. For example, agricultural and manufacturing businesses may experience more heavily-soiled panels. Our O&M team has all the necessary equipment and training to clean roof and ground panels safely and effectively.

Customers in rural areas may also require more maintenance than urban businesses. Nesting birds, pests, and overhanging trees can all hinder the performance of solar panels.

 

A lot can change in a decade

Over the last ten years, the popularity of solar has really taken off. Businesses might have solar systems that are easily 9-10 years old, without ever having serviced or assessed them.

You wouldn’t have any other piece of business equipment that you didn’t service or monitor for ten years, so why would you do it with the thing that produces your electricity? Ten years is plenty of time for panels to become dirty, or experience wear and tear. Even factors like tree growth could affect the performance of your panels and should be assessed.

 

Partner in power for your PV installation and service

We provide operations and maintenance servicing for a number of agricultural, industrial, and corporate customers. Our services include:

  • Remote system monitoring
  • Technical telephone support
  • Quarterly performance reports
  • FiT assessments
  • Cleaning services
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Inverter servicing

For more information, visit our servicing webpage, or get in touch.

Positive environmental and climate news from 2019

Is there any good news about climate change?

A couple of weeks ago, we found an interesting article that poses the following question:

Do we have any right to feel optimistic about climate change?

The piece urges us to face the facts. We’re in a mess, and its unlikely we can totally undo the damage already reaped on the environment. It argues that we should be hopeful, not optimistic, about tackling climate change:

“Overestimating society’s powers can be as dangerous as false hope, because we start telling Disney-like stories in the midst of a global crisis”…[The] antidote is healthy skepticism… we should settle our hope in our values – in what we believe is right and needed. Our actions can’t be based on the expectations of a happy ending. That outcome is outside of our control.”

The article argues that our hope must be grounded in action. If we do our bit, we can hope: but we should not assume we have ‘saved’ the planet. And we certainly can’t hope if we do nothing, and leave it up to others.

That said: while we can’t assume that everything will be alright, going too far the other way is equally damaging. Environmental anxiety is rising. While it may be naïve to feel totally hopeful about climate change, feeling hopeless won’t help either.

We believe it’s important to celebrate positives, without resting on one’s laurels. So, without being too optimistic, we’d like share just a handful of environmental good news stories from the last year. We still have a long way to go, and we might never get there. But we believe it’s important to recognise that some progress has been made, thanks to the hard work of committed individuals and organisations.

 

UK reliance on fossil fuels hit an all-time low in 2019

If you’re considering the UK’s energy usage, and where that energy came from, 2019 was the greenest year on record. We generated more renewable energy than ever before, and the carbon intensity of our electricity dropped to the lowest it has ever been. Here’s the full breakdown of stats from the National Grid Electricity System Operator:

  • December 10 2019 – highest ever level of wind powered electricity generation, 16873 MW
  • May 14 2019 – highest ever level of solar powered electricity generation, 9550 MW
  • Longest ever period of operation of GB’s electricity system without using coal power to produce electricity (437.5 hours) ending on June 4 2019
  • August 17 2019 – lowest ever carbon intensity: 57g CO2/kWh (carbon intensity of electricity is a measure of C02 emissions produced per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed)

 

EU to ban single use plastics by 2021

In the Autumn of last year, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics by 2021. MEPs argued that if no action was take, there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. By 2021, anything plastic that’s used once then thrown away is banned in the EU: plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.

Of course, we can’t celebrate this yet. It is too soon to see any results from this initiative, and does not undo years of wasteful plastic usage. However, perhaps we can feel quietly hopeful. Following the introduction of the 5p plastic bag levy in 2015, public plastic bag usage reduced by 85%. This has already created a positive knock-on effect for the environment. In the first year, the number of plastic bags washed up on UK beaches fell by half.

 

Citizen interest in climate change is increasing

The global conversation around climate change is becoming more open, and more vocal. It makes the news several times a week, and infiltrates other forms of media, too. David Attenborough fans will notice that his more recent documentaries are becoming more and more environmentally focused. 2019’s Netflix series, Our Planet, explores the devastating effects of deforestation, pollution, over-hunting, and climate change. Of course, consuming media and “scrolling for hope” won’t tackle climate change: but citizen action will. Fortunately, we’re seeing more of this too.

Regardless of what you think about their methods, examples of citizen activism like Extinction Rebellion show that normal people feel genuinely passionate about tackling climate change. Extinction Rebellion has staged protests in over 60 cities, with thousands of people arrested for ‘disruptive’ and dangerous behaviour. And this passion that incites protest knows no age limit: across the world, school children take part in regular school strikes for the climate.

Such protests don’t stop climate change on their own. Additionally, we can’t ignore the C02 impact of thousands of people travelling to these events. However, they do send a strong message. Brands and organisations must step up to their environmental responsibilities, or risk losing the trust of customers and stakeholders.

 

Electric vehicles becoming a mainstream option

At the end of 2019, there were almost 265,000  electric vehicles on the roads: that’s 3.2% of the average market share. EVs are shedding their ‘hippie’ reputation, with many of the major car manufacturers releasing electric models in 2019.

Switching to electric vehicles isn’t enough on its own to mitigate climate change. Plus, we need to power them with clean electricity (solar, wind, or hydro). But, an openness to explore more sustainable transport methods is a step in the right direction.

However, in order for this to succeed, we need to invest in improving EV infrastructure. Despite the ban in petrol and diesel vehicles being brought forward, charging an electric car at home is still not a viable option for most people.

 

So, can we feel positive about climate change?

As you can see from the handful of stories above, positive news about climate change is happening. However, these stories are always tinged with a ‘but’. We’re taking steps to tackle to climate change… but it’s never enough on its own.

There is no one perfect solution when it comes to tackling climate change. Despite our best efforts, we might never achieve the results needed to prevent drastic warming.

All we can do is try, celebrate our progress, and then keep trying.

Our clean energy predictions for 2020

EV fleet vans being charged

RenEnergy’s energy predictions for 2020

To mark the start of the new year, we’re sharing our clean energy predictions for 2020. Here’s what we think will be big in the world of solar and storage this year…

Majority of energy to come from renewables

In 2019, 48.5% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable sources. We anticipate this year will be even higher, with over half our energy being green.

We also think that the UK will go for longer periods without using fossil fuels. In 2019, the UK went almost three weeks without burning any coal. In 2020, we’d like to see that raise to a whole month.

Bigger and better batteries

We predict that improvements in battery technology will make solar and storage options even more popular. Not only are batteries becoming more effective, they are also becoming more affordable. Without the feed-in-tariff (or a battery), any solar energy not used in real-time is effectively wasted. A battery allows solar energy to be saved, and used outside of daylight hours. Solar plus storage is essential for those who want to operate off-grid, so better batteries will be particularly useful for our colleagues in South Africa. Their customers often need to maintain a steady energy supply to protect their homes and business in times of load-shedding.

However, it is worth mentioning that battery technology comes with some challenges. Mining for lithium (an essential ingredient in many batteries) can cause pollution and damage to local ecosystems. As public interest in environmentalism becomes increasingly passionate, we expect to hear more about this in 2020, too.

EV boom continues 

We think these improvements in batteries will continue to grow the adoption of electric vehicles. An improved EV battery allows the cars to retain more charge and achieve a better range. Likewise, the affordability of solar and storage may encourage more customers to choose an EV.

Great progress is already being made. In 2010, there were just 972 EVs on UK roads. At the end of last year, there were over 15,500. As EVs become a more mainstream option, the number of public and community EV charge points will increase too.

Innovation in solar panel design 

As well as updates to battery tech, we think there will be further developments to the composition of solar panels, improving their efficiency. For example, bifacial solar panels that absorb sunlight from both sides of the panel. Additionally, researchers are exploring alternatives to silicon, such as perovskite. While investigation into these options is ongoing, we don’t expect to see the products become available until the end of this year. However, we know our trusted technical partners are continually improving their products to ensure quality and effectiveness.

Smart Export Guarantee: not so smart

From 1 January 2020, the Smart Export Guarantee replaces the now-abolished feed-in-tariff. Under this scheme, customers with small arrays (under 5 MW) may receive a payment for exporting additional energy back to the grid. However, the scheme is not as generous as FIT and faces stricter regulations, allowing customers to export much less back to the grid. Our prediction is that the Smart Export Guarantee won’t make much of a difference. It may provide a small perk to domestic customers who don’t use all their generated electricity. But, the real benefit is saving on energy bills and fulfilling a commitment to environmentalism.

What are your clean energy predictions for 2020? Let us know on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

RenEnergy proudly partners with the Spier Wine Estate, South Africa

Solar panels on roof of Spier wine estate

Our international arm, RenEnergy Africa, is the renewables partner for the Spier Wine Estate in South Africa.

RenEnergy is proud to be the renewables partner for the Spier Wine Estate: one of the oldest vineyards and wine estates in south Africa. Founded in 1682, the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch creates some of the world’s most-celebrated wines. Photo of spier wine estate building

RenEnergy Africa supplied and installed five solar panel systems on the Spier estate: on the hotel, conference facility, wine tasting rooms, finance office and wine cellar.

The Spier Wine Estate is committed to reducing its environmental impact, using minimal chemicals and recycling more than 98% of their solid waste. Our solar installation furthers this environmental commitment by minimising the estate’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Together, the five systems supply the farm with 40,630 kWh of electricity every year. This clean, solar energy saves 16,183.9kg of C02 every year.

Alexander Matthews, Spier Wine Estate, said:

“As our solar energy partner, RenEnergy is playing a crucial role in helping us to tread evermore lightly on our planet. They have installed three solar power systems and there are more to come. We greatly appreciate their team’s hard work, dedication, professionalism – as well as the commitment they share with us to a greener future.”

Our connection with the Spier Wine Estate goes further than our renewables partnership. We are lucky enough to be based in offices on the stunning Spier Estate. At our office, we also installed two solar ground arrays, and two roof arrays.

 

Christmas Hamper Competition: Terms & Conditions

christmas tree and baulbes on wooden background

We hope you enjoy entering our 2019 Christmas Hamper Competition.

Here are the terms and conditions:

  • The competition will run from 2 – 15 December 2019 (midnight to midnight)
  • Once all the entries are in, each entry will be assigned a number
  • We’ll then pick a random number using this random number bot
  • The entry corresponding to the picked number is the winner
  • The winner will be drawn at lunchtime on Monday 16 December and announced on our social media channels
  • We’ll also email the winner to let them know, plus arrange delivery of their hamper
  • UK entrants only: we can’t deliver any further than that before Christmas
  • Tickets are available for specific Norwich City games; we’ll arrange this when we contact the winner
  • Any questions, please email mtaylor@renenergy.co.uk

Enter the RenEnergy Christmas Hamper Competition 2019!

Christmas tree graphic: RenEnergy Christmas Hamper competition

RenEnergy Christmas Hamper Competition 2019

It’s no secret: 2019 has been a great year for RenEnergy. We installed our first solar carport for Aviva (with more on the way), as well as innovative solar systems for the likes of Norwich City Football Club, Natures Menu, and many more.

Since we’re so full of festive cheer, we’d like to celebrate by sharing a bit of it. Our 2019 Christmas hamper competition is now live!

One lucky person will receive a festive hamper, full of goodies from our fabulous customers and suppliers. That means most of the items were created using clean, solar power installed by RenEnergy. Here’s what you could win:

To be in with a chance of winning, enter using the form below. A winner will be drawn on Monday 16 December. See here for full terms and conditions.

Good Luck! And Merry Christmas 🙂

RenEnergy founder, Damian, quoted in Parking News

Photo of newspaper with parking news logo

Our founder and managing director, Damian Baker, is quoted in Parking News: trade publication for the parking and traffic management industry.

For once, we’re not talking about solar panels or solar carports! We feature in an article about how organisations can incorporate social values into their operations. While public sector bodies have Social Value Charters that commit them to CSR and staff wellbeing, many private sector companies do these under their own steam.

Screenshot of British Parking News article

Damian spoke to journalist, Sarah Juggins, about how RenEnergy incorporates social values into daily life. Here’s what he said:

“Like most private sector organisations, RenEnergy does not have a Social Values Charter. However, we do naturally incorporate a number of social values into our operations.

We use renewable energy to power and heat our offices, and earlier this year we completed an energy efficiency audit to reduce our overall energy consumption and carbon emissions. We also use our expertise as part of Norwich Community Solar: a cooperative that helps solar projects off the ground for community organisations (such as sports centres).

Internally, we offer extensive training for staff, and put employees through apprenticeships to upskill. We have a number of working parents on the team, so allow flexibility to accommodate their other commitments. As well as being in line with our company principles, these things simply make good business sense.”

You can read the full article online: check us out on page 16!

RenEnergy solar carport for Aviva achieves ‘highly commended’ at Solar & Storage Live Awards

newspaper image with solar power portal

Our solar carport for Aviva was ‘highly commended’ at the Solar & Storage Live Awards last week.

We were thrilled to be nominated for the ‘commercial solar project of the year’ at Solar Power Portal’s Solar & Storage Live Awards last week.

We didn’t win, but we’re thrilled to be highly commended by the judges. We’re very proud of our solar carport for Aviva, so it feels great to receive external recognition for the project.  More importantly, the team thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the awards ceremony at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham.

Congratulations to the winners, Meadowhall Shopping Centre. We’ll be back next year to see if we can get another award under our belt.

Click here to read Solar Power Portal’s write-up of the awards.

RenEnergy and NCFC solar panel partnership featured in EDP

Blog banner: RenEnergy in EDP

Our solar installation for Norwich City FC’s training ground is featured in local news publication, the Eastern Daily Press.

The EDP has published an article on our recent solar roof installation at NCFC’s Lotus Training Centre. The work was completed as part of a £5m fan-funded redevelopment of the club’s training facilities.

Journalist, Caroline Culot, provided a great write-up of the project, as well as our new partnership with Norwich City FC. We’re sponsoring the team for the 2019/20 season as they take on the Premier League: read more about it here.

Screen shot of RenEnergy in the EDP newspaper

Our solar carport for Aviva Norwich featured in Parking News

RenEnergy’s solar carport at Aviva Horizon, Norwich is featured in the September issue of Parking News.

Parking News is the monthly publication for the British Parking Association: the trade body for the parking and traffic management profession. Back in July, we invited Sarah Juggins, journalist for Parking News, along to our open day at Aviva Horizon.

Turn to page 20 of the online publication to see Sarah’s write up of our Aviva solar carport project.

RenEnergy featured in Parking News

RenEnergy’s NCFC project featured in Solar Power Portal

Photo of newspaper with RenEnergy and Solar Power Portal logo

Thanks to Solar Power Portal for publishing an article about our recent installation at partnership with Norwich City Football Club.

We installed a double roof array at the club’s Lotus Training Centre as part of a £5m redevelopment.

Completing the installation as part of the ongoing work at Colney Lane minimised disruption at the site. The installation helps offset the unavoidable energy usage and C02 emissions associated with running a football club.

Ben Kensell, COO at Norwich City, added: “We are delighted to welcome on board RenEnergy. They have been able to offer us a renewable and long-lasting solution to our energy consumption at the Lotus Training Centre which falls directly in-line with the aim of lowering our carbon footprint.”

You can read the full article over on Solar Power Portal.